Tag Archives: Calling

(More) On How

In response to my post “Ever Present,” my friend Renee asked a critical question: How?  How can we live each moment attentive to God’s presence? Last week I shared 22 ideas with you for being more present in life and more present to God (find ’em here). But this week we’ll look at some deeper, theological and spiritual answers that come from a book I treasure.

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red poppyThe Practice of the Presence of God is a tiny little book with a great, big, walloping impact. It explores a seemingly simple idea . . . that revolutionizes every moment. It’s the record of some of the conversations and letters of Brother Lawrence, a French monk from the 1600s. Rather than summarize his ideas in my own words, here’s a short sampling:

Brother Lawrence taught:

• “That we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with [God], with freedom and in simplicity. That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him in every moment.”

• “That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times.”

 In letters, Brother Lawrence explained:

• “I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard toward God . . . an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God, which often causes me joys and raptures inwardly.”

• “[W]e must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with Him. We must hinder our spirits’ wandering from Him upon any occasion.”

[**All quotes in the Public Domain]

What’s your reaction to this idea? What would a continual conversation with God look like in your life, in your heart? A relationship of freedom and simplicity? Addressing yourself to God in every moment?

Consider and pray . . . How might God want you to practice—make a habit of—tuning in to his presence?

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Now a bit more on Brother Lawrence. He was a monk who found he best connected with God during his daily duties – kitchen work. He experienced intimacy with God more in the context of his normal life than even the times set aside for prayer and devotions in the monks’ cells. His encouragement for believers to maintain a continual conversation of the heart with God can help us transform any – every! – moment into a sacred one!

But, let’s be honest.

stained glass prayerHe was a MONK.

He had NO KIDS!

He worked in a MONASTERY!

So how in the world can his advice fit within the context of real life? Because, let me tell you, it seems a LOT harder to have this kind of continual conversation with God in modern life than it probably was for him – at least in terms of the many distractions that assail us.

Yet Brother Lawrence offers us some insights that can yet help us navigate all that draws our attention from God. Continue reading

Do: Shine!

“. . . in which you shine . . . like stars in the sky” (Philippians 2:15).

“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14).

star nightMy new Flourishing Faith Bible study Shine Your Light explores service, compassion, justice, action . . . the doing side of our faith. Take time to journey through this excerpt as we wrap up our discussion on doing.

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 “I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18b). Faith—believing in the good news—is intricately interconnected with action. Just as faith demonstrates itself in works, works proclaim our faith to the world. Our actions, demeanor, words, character, and way of life declare a message!

. . .  One powerful theme interwoven throughout the book of James is that what we believe ought to show itself in what we do and how we act:

• We’re to truly listen to God’s Word and respond by doing what it says (1:22-25)

• As believers in our compassionate, just, and merciful God, we’re to live the good news by caring for the poor, vulnerable, and overlooked (1:27; 2:1-13).

• Living the gospel means loving our neighbors as ourselves—and that includes seemingly “unimportant” people (2:1-13).

• Belief in the gospel demonstrates itself in our actions (2:14-26).

• Our actions and demeanor reveal that we are aligned with a new way of thinking as we live by values “from above” (3:13, 17-18).

• When God leads us to do good, it’s imperative that we respond (4:17).

• Materialism and injustice toward the poor are absolutely contrary to the gospel (5:1-6).

• Intimacy with God through prayer empowers a gospel-transformed life (5:13-20).

. . . What can you do today to proclaim the gospel through action? Continue reading

Do: Workmanship

fall leaf

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10, ESV).

You are saved by the rich grace of God. No matter what you’ve done in your life, his grace is enough.  No A-pluses, no good-enoughs, no extra credit required. You don’t need to dig yourself out of your hole or pick yourself up by your bootstraps or overcome your failings or earn a golden ticket because it’s not about doing good works to get God’s approval. This grace and faith and salvation miracle? It’s all God’s.

 But . . .

. . . here is where we so often stop. We’re fantastic at quoting (and arguing about!) Ephesians 2:8-9 . . . and we stop there where Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, didn’t stop. God had more to say about this grace and faith and salvation miracle!

Let’s consider again how he brings this idea of grace and salvation to a climactic, purpose-full conclusion:  Continue reading

Spiritual Wholeness, Mental Illness? (Part 2)

Amy Simpson is an author, editor, and leader — and to me she’s a friend, mentor, former boss, and an inspiration! Amy’s written a book about mental illness and the church called Troubled Minds. Today Amy joins me for part 2 of our interview about wholeness, suffering, and hope. (Read part 1 of our interview by clicking here.) 

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Troubled Minds #4304 CoverYour new book Troubled Minds addresses the issue of mental illness and the church — and your passion for this topic comes out of your own personal story of growing up with a mother who suffers from schizophrenia. In what ways did your difficult family experiences shape your sense of self and your view of faith, either positively or negatively?

Like many other families that go through similar experiences, our family life revolved around Mom and her illness. The rest of us had to put our emotional lives on the back burner to keep the peace and avoid stress and conflict at home. We didn’t talk much about what was happening with her. And because we didn’t feel it was OK to discuss mental illness with others, we mostly kept quiet about it when we were away from home too. We felt very isolated, as if we were the only ones going through the experience.

I learned to shut off my negative emotions because they were just too overwhelming for me—and frankly, we couldn’t afford for anyone else in our family to be struggling. Over time, I lost the ability to fully experience emotion of any kind, and I had to learn to embrace my emotions and my own needs as I worked toward healing. Continue reading

The Poetry of Grace

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.”

potteryAhhh… Thank God for the beautiful words of Ephesians 2:8-9. Grace to save us. Grace to build up faith within us. Grace as the most generous of gifts. Grace that is freely given — not earned, not accomplished, not awarded like a merit badge. And this grace makes us whole. Even in our brokenness and our ongoing struggles, this grace shapes us, builds us, forms something in and out of our lives.

And this grace is the context within which we understand the verse that follows. Read it all together: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

“Handiwork” is the word poema–it’s something made, something crafted, a masterpiece. It’s the word from which we derive “poem” and this idea of poetry can give us a unique way of understanding God’s beautiful working in our lives.

mosaicYou are divinely, intentionally, handmade by God. You — your story that includes pain and brokenness and areas of weakness and failing — You are God’s grace-shaping masterpiece. The Artist can create stunning and divine beauty even out of the broken pieces of one’s life! In Christ, you are whole and are being made whole (the journey isn’t done!) . . . and it’s for a purpose: to do the good work of God that he’s prepared for you to do in this world! God desires to work his goodness and love and healing and grace in this world through you. Even today, in whatever is on your plate, God has goodness — blessing — to give to the world through you.

Being “whole” doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out or that you’re earning “perfect-Christian” merit badges from God! It means you’re wholly-reliant upon grace, you’re wholly-immersed in God’s love, you’re wholly-dependent upon God for your identity and life’s purpose.

How is God shaping you with his love? How is he writing his poetry of grace in and through your life? How are you now, and how are you continually becoming, his masterpiece?

Thank you God for these words of truth that defy the darkness and confound what we, at times, believe about ourselves! Help each of us us more deeply embrace your truth at the core of who we are: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

God Wants You To . . .

. . . embrace your God-given worth!

So often we struggle with self-image. Who am I? What am I worth? At times, many of us battle low self-esteem or even self-hatred.

But is this what God wants for us? Is this dark and crushing struggle what he made us for? Why he’s sustaining our life every day?

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Embrace Your Worth-CVR1This common struggle and Scripture’s resounding answer to it compelled me to write Embrace Your Worth. If you want to dig into Scripture and explore ideas like self-worth, God’s grace, spiritual gifts, and God’s unique calling and purpose in your life, I encourage you to use Embrace Your Worth as a 30-day personal Bible study. Gather friends around you to go through the study together (and find a free discussion guide here). Or consider giving the book as a gift to women you care about – women who you want to develop a strong sense of identity, purpose, confidence, and, ultimately, their value in Christ.

Embrace Your Worth

Embrace Your Worth-CVR1Thanks for joining in on the exploration of “Calling” during the month of March! If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, check out my new book Embrace Your Worth. Along with themes of calling and vocation, Embrace Your Worth delves deep into critical issues in our lives like self-image struggles, self-worth vs. self-esteem, seeing yourself as God sees you (You are his masterpiece!), embracing the giftings given to you through God’s Spirit, and discerning the good God gives you to do in your world.

Starting next week and for the month of  April we’ll explore Creation Care (environmental stewardship). Though Christians may have different political opinions about hot-button issues like environmental policies, I strongly believe that Christians of all political stripes can find unity around the biblical themes of receiving the good gifts of God’s created world with gratitude; learning more about God and experiencing his presence through his created world; loving the least of these by protecting human life from environmental degradation; and embracing Scripture’s call to be a wise and faithful caretaker of God’s good, very good, creation.

So whether you’re green at heart, curious but tentative about “green” issues, or even a skeptic about faith & environmentalism, please tune in during April. I’d love for you to be part of the dialogue!

Do Your Thing

do your thingCalling is a great big, deep, often mysterious thing. It’s the answer we seek to the oft-recurring question we ask: “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” And calling is also some small, mundane, plain and daily thing. It can be tied to one’s job (like, “God’s called me to be a surgeon . . . or a missionary or a pilot or a writer or a farmer”). It can be completely separate from one’s employment (like, “God’s called me to volunteer in children’s ministry” or “God’s called me to be a parent” or “God’s called me to be an AIDS activist”). It can be linked to passions, hobbies, and interests—like art, gardening, music, writing, cooking, woodworking, dance, or fishing. And, as Leslie reminded us last week, it can be connected to our afflictions. Even cancer or widowhood or a learning disability or a failed marriage or chronic pain can flow into a calling: A calling to bless, to listen, to mourn with those who mourn, to act in compassion, to offer words of mercy.

And calling can also be all wrapped up in totally un-special and seemingly un-spiritual daily tasks—like dusting, changing diapers, sorting laundry, grocery shopping, sorting recycling, and paying bills—because these tasks are all wrapped up into larger callings of love: Loving family, blessing neighbors, receiving God’s gifts with gratitude, living in integrity, stewarding God’s world well. Consider this claim from Puritan William Tyndale (quoted in my book Embrace Your Worth): “As touching to please God, there is no work better than another. . . . Now if thou compare deed to deed, there is [a] difference betwixt washing of dishes and preaching the word of God. But as touching to please God, none at all.”

So God’s calling, like a brilliant thread, weaves in and out of the multitude of other threads that make up the fabric of our lives: our work, our hobbies, our gifts, our passions, our ministry, our abilities, our relationships, our daily tasks, and even our weaknesses and our suffering. Continue reading

Small Acts: Meet My Friend Leslie Leyland Fields

Readers, as I edited this interview, Leslie’s words literally brought tears to my eyes. This is a gives-you-goosebumps kind of interview: beautifully honest and spiritually deep. Just what I needed as I edited it, and hopefully just what you need to read in this God-ordained moment right now.

So, as you can tell, I’m really excited to give you this chance to hear from Leslie Leyland Fields. She’s an author, a regular columnist for Christianity Today, a mom, and a woman with a unique job: participating in her family’s fishing business. Keep reading for some interesting, compelling, and honest thoughts about calling, motherhood, real-life, and the adventure God has in mind for each of us. 

leslieWelcome, Leslie! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I almost always identify myself first by where I live — I live on two island in Alaska, on Kodiak Island in the winter and on a small island in bush Alaska in the summer where my family and I commercial salmon fish. But I also resist being defined by where I live — there begins the paradoxes I live between and among. I’m mother to six children, ages 24 to 10, and I’ve delivered eight books into the world, all facts that contain both tension and blessing. But I know no better place to live.

This month we’re exploring the idea of “calling” in our lives. For some women, this is a really inspiring and invigorating idea. For others it’s frustrating because it can bring with it an expectation of doing something grand and important; meanwhile their real life feels so . . . normal. What’s your gut-reaction to the idea of having a calling? Why?

I believe in calling. Most of us know the root word for “vocation” is vocare, meaning “to call.”  That term and idea was used by the church for a vocation within the church, but we have a fuller understanding that the world cannot be riven into sacred verses secular arenas. We’ve all been “called” to go out and make disciples, but we’ve been called in different ways, and each according to her gifts — and her afflictions. Fulfilling our call is very rarely going to look dramatic and grand. It’s going to look and feel small, especially to us in this culture when everyone lusts after fame and a global platform. It’s going to be small acts done in private spaces, away from the cameras and microphones: a cup of cold water, a call to a neighbor who’s just returned from the doctor, mentoring a teen, helping a friend through a marriage crisis, feeding strangers. We can and we must do these kinds of things as part of our calling. But calling is more than this. It’s about fostering the particular gifts and afflictions that God has given each one of us for the up-building of his Kingdom. If you’ve got a beautiful voice, sing. If you’re an amazing gardener, garden. If words on the page are your passion, write. And afflictions: If you’ve been through serious illness, gone through marital pain, whatever burden of witness God has given you, exercise that witness among others in need.  Here is what I’ve written in my Writer’s Manifesto about writing and calling (but it applies to any gift):

Writing is a vocation, a calling, a kind of pilgrimage that takes us, like Abraham, from one land to another, through, of course, wastelands, where the promise of a promised land appears invisible and impossible, but the writing inexorably, day by day, moves us closer to holiness, the city of God.

Any calling, if it is of God, will include all of this: struggle, suffering, and yet a steady movement toward God and His holiness.

parentingmythOne reason I wanted to interview you about this topic is because I loved your book (with its critical subtitle!): Parenting Is Your Highest Calling–And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. Why do you think this idea that “parenting is one’s highest calling” can be so dangerous for moms? And why, in your opinion, is it a myth?

As Christian women and as mothers, we’ve been fed this idea since we were young: that our greatest contribution to the world, to the church, to the kingdom of God is the children we produce and raise. Continue reading

Your Daily Work: Does It Matter?

Work. Many of you, my readers, work outside the home: at an office, in a classroom, in a lab, in a cubicle, in a factory, or somewhere else. Others of you, my readers, work within the home: as stay-at-home moms, as homemakers, as household CEOs. And some of you work in the way I do: as a hybrid of a stay-at-home-mom and a part-time employee.

woman workingWhether it’s outside the home in a career you’re paid for or inside the home in the hard work of mothering, the truth is we ALL work. Our lives are filled with tasks that we set out to accomplish. We put in hard work and determined effort. We do thankless jobs. We create or contribute to something excellent. Our work takes up a large percentage of our time. We may derive a lot of our identity and self-confidence from our work, or we may simply work because, financially, we have to. We may love our daily work . . . or we may hate it.

So does our work really matter? And how does it relate to calling? Consider this post about the theology of work that I wrote for Gifted For Leadership back in 2007:

•   •   •   •   •

We recently had a “worst or weirdest job ever” conversation among the adults in our Sunday school class at church. One friend had spent two years collecting umbilical cords for research (i.e. personally picking them up, packaging them, and taking them back to the lab in her car); another had worked the graveyard shift at a cherry-packing factory, quickly grabbing rotten cherries off the line . . . all night long.

My contribution to the discussion was one of my first jobs ever — a regular babysitting gig as a young teen. After several afternoons with the three kids and their “adorable” shih tzu named Buddy, I reported to my dad how cute it was that Buddy kept hugging my leg all the time. Needless to say, I nearly puked when my dad explained to me what all the “hugging” really was!

All joking aside, we all know from experience that sometimes work can feel frustrating, monotonous, exhausting, and unsatisfying. Whether you’re leading meetings in a boardroom or are at home washing dishes, your “work” consumes at least a third of your life. 

So what does it have to do with your faith? Continue reading